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WATTPAD NATION

How a site for posting stories is changing Philippine publishing

/ 03:26 AM October 06, 2013

It turns out the Philippines is a nation of readers and writers after all—especially when one looks at how Filipinos have taken to Wattpad (Wattpad.com).  Dubbed the “YouTube for writers,” this website and online community allows users to post their own stories, as well as read and comment on the stories of others. Writers can continue to revise their own work even as others comment. It’s really like a self-contained eco-system for aspiring writers, and there are many of those in the Philippines.

Kristel Tan, Wattpad’s country manager for the Philippines, says Wattpad welcomes just a little under 20 million unique visitors monthly. Of all the countries represented on Wattpad, the Philippines is the second most represented (just behind the US, but ahead of Canada), counting for more than 20 percent of all stories posted, many of them written in Filipino. So important is the Philippines as a market that Tan and Wattpad founder Allen Lau visited the country during the recent Manila International Bookfair (MIBF) and were met by more than a thousand fans.

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“In August this year, Filipino users wrote 1.3 million messages on Wattpad, which signifies that it is (considered as) more than just a reading platform but a way to socialize and engage with others in the Philippines and around the world.”

Tan adds that the enthusiasm of fans from the Philippines is unique. “The fandom that Wattpad writers are able to cultivate in the Philippines is more developed than what we’ve seen in other countries,” she says. “Trademark Filipino traits such as warmth, congeniality and hospitality definitely foster a unique environment for Wattpad to thrive in.”

FEATURED STORIES

She also notes the sheer diversity of stories written by Filipinos on Wattpad. “There are a lot of romances, especially those with comedic and ‘kilig’ (swoon) factors. Teen fiction is popular, too. We are also seeing a rise in fan fiction (‘fanfic’), with stories being written about Kathniel (or the showbiz love team Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla) which have appeared in 11,500 stories, as well as various Korean pop idols.”

In fact the word “fanfic” on Wattpad seems to have been co-opted to represent not only stories about famous people and characters, but also those with the same themes and tone. The quality also varies wildly—as does the number of reads, Wattpad’s equivalent of Facebook’s likes. Before a story even comes close to becoming a physical book, its writer can already gauge its popularity based on the number of page views and readers.

“Wattpad has, in a way, revitalized publishing in the Philippines,” Tan says. Publishing companies have found success by plucking popular Wattpad authors and publishing their books that have already been road-tested, in a manner of speaking. Summit Books, for instance, found its first crossover hit with “She’s Dating the Gangster” (“SDTG”) by Bianca Bernardino. Originally located in Candy Magazine’s forums before moving to Wattpad, “SDTG” topped the bestseller charts and now has 30,000 copies in print. Summit Books then found their second crossover hit from Wattpad in “Operation Break the Casanova’s Heart” by AlyLoony. The author, whose real name is Aly Almario, is an interesting story in herself: Away from the computer, this 21-year-old is a Starbucks barista in real life.

PSICOM Publishing found its big Wattpad story in HaveYouSeenThisGirL’s “Diary ng Panget.” PSICOM publisher Arnel Gabriel says the clear advantage of Wattpad is that it is free and you can find good stories on it. The disadvantage is also clear. “It’s free so readers might not buy our books and just read the stories on Wattpad.”  The upside for Denny—also known as HaveYouSeenThis GirL—is that you can edit your stories on Wattpad anytime and interact with your readers. The downside? “Anonymous bashers,” she says. “But I feel they just have nothing better to do.”

Summit Books Team Publisher Christine Ko says Wattpad helps publishers discover new talent. “And there’s a lot out there… A whole generation will probably grow up reading these books, just like people read Mills & Boon in the 1970s and Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High from the ‘80s to early ‘90s.”

Truth is, Wattpad readers are buying the physical books as well. “By purchasing print copies, readers can own something they love,” Tan explains. “It’s also a way for them to show their support for writers they’ve been following and reading obsessively on Wattpad.”  Wattpad will continue to grow, as will its influence on Filipinos. “Wattpad opens up publishing in a way that wasn’t possible before,” Tan says. “We see young Filipinos taking a huge interest in reading and writing.”–Ruel S. De Vera

Most read Filipino stories on Wattpad:

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1. “Public vs. Private” by hannalove: 24.2M reads

2. “A and D” by fallenbabybubu: 18M reads

3. “Operation Break the Casanova’s Heart” by AlyLoony: 17.8M reads

4. “Diary Ng Panget” by HaveYouSeenThisGirL: 15.2M reads

5. “Three Words, Eight Letters, Say It and I’m Yours” by Girlinlove: 14.4M reads

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TAGS: Arts and Books, Philippine publishing, PSICOM publishing, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Wattpad
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